Girls picnic on the beach at Coney Island, 1905

Sandwiches? Fruit? I’m not sure what’s in this box lunch these four girls are sharing on the beach at Coney Island in 1905, but it doesn’t resemble Coney beach eats like hot dogs or Mrs. Stahl’s knishes.


What does it feel like to go to the beach in black stockings and wool suits . . . or the heavy hats the woman in the background has on?

[Photo via Shorpy]

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4 Responses to “Girls picnic on the beach at Coney Island, 1905”

  1. Tom Hakala Says:

    Great photo! Actually, in the days before sunscreen, the black ‘bathing costumes’ made sense. I’m from the Coney Island area (Sheepshead Bay). As late as the early 60s we really had no effective sunscreen (what was available was about SPF 4 by today’s standards, and not waterproof). In May and June when you started getting really red, your mother would say: “Put on a tee shirt when you go in the water!” Well, we did, but the tee shirts were all white and, according to my dermatologist, a wet white tee shirt has an SPF factor of like about 2. Those of us with light skin always got bad sunburns early in the summer. What about wool? Well, the interesting thing about wool is that it insulates even when it’s wet. You really don’t want to try to swim around in wool, but if you are only wading chest deep – mostly all they did in 1905 (my grandmother – born 1880 – told me she never went more than thigh deep in the ocean), it’s probably a somewhat effective primitive wet suit. And, in Coney Island in May – water temperatures often only in the high 50s – a wet suit is not a bad idea. The lunch: even in my time the ‘box lunch’ was fairly common. You got a box lunch on group outings, with your school, church, or social club. In something a little smaller than a shoe box you got a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a bag of chips and a drink. It looks like the women in the picture only bought two box lunches to share between the four of them. No drinks in sight – possibly because the drink was a bottle of beer and the ladies did not want to be photographed drinking. Thanks again for the evocative photo. -Tom

  2. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you for this info! I didn’t think of the sunscreen angle, but it also makes sense when you consider that pale skin was the beauty ideal at the time. No wonder so many umbrellas are on the beach around them.

    • Beth Says:

      True that these clothes helped preserve the beautiful pale skin but also keep in mind that that sunburn factor has changed significantly over the past 110 years.

  3. Ricky Says:

    Wool insulates even when wet!

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